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Sk8r 02/05/2016 02:09 PM

Novices need LED lighting questions answered.
I'm trying to put together some info for New to the Hobby folk who are considering LED lighting.
Can some knowledgeable people answer the following?
1. Reef LED versus fish-only LED---how to buy. What to consider.
2. Cost advantage? or is it a wash, if you were absolutely starting from no-lights?
3. What is par?
4. How does width and depth of tank affect the brand you buy and the number of units you need?
5. What about pre-set programs? Doing your own?
6. What about building your own?
7. Advice for running LED in your tank: percentage of power, etc. Acclimation to light. Special care when lights come on after a long period of darkness, say, a power outage lasting more than a day.
.....and any other aspect you think useful.

FreedR 02/05/2016 02:24 PM

Thanks for starting this! Comes at a perfect time for me, as I'm about to get my 75g box of air back wet again and full of reef. I need to refurbish the hood, and had MH + actinics, but am considering LEDs. Looking forward to learning more from others' experience.

shifty51008 02/05/2016 04:37 PM

Good thread to start as there is a learning curve with led's that alot of people dont know about. They are not just a plug and play setup like t5's, pc's, and mh's were.

Sk8r 02/05/2016 10:46 PM

Well, I've tried this info-gathering in 3 different places, and no info, which I find quite strange.
I'll fill you in on my choice and why, which is driven by a bulb-hungry MH/HO combo rig, for an lps tank...good, but huge, and power-hungry AND you have to change out the bulbs. It was a great light kit for my 54, but not enough for my 30x30x30 quarter-cylinder 105 gallon. I was having mystery problems, and began to ask myself if it could really be the lights.
Yes. It was. next problem: that 30" deep. I began to realize most lights don't do well quite that deep. THat's going to limit my selection: there's one commercial model: Radion Pro, that will handle the depth. THe other choice would be to try to DIY a kit that would work...but DIYing a kit for an already problematic situation was offputting.
I'm quite handy and tech-savvy, but I don't have the time needed to get into the research that it would take to DIY or go from kit---PROBABLY I could do it, but it's an expensive mistake if I can't.

So, I bit the bullet and got the pricier version of the Radions, the Pro, which can do the depth, and my next question is whether they could handle the width. THat's 30".

Quarter-cylinder tank shape means I can do a pyramid rock stack. That brought me within the profile of this unit. Now, here is where Radion's info is a wee bit short....they don't give their profile in inches. They recommend it for 'deep' and also for 'wide.'

I can say it's worked. I didn't get two things, the hanging kit (I have a canopy) and the unit that talks to your computer (it has a usb I leave plugged in, which I can plug into a laptop.) I mounted it directly to the canopy lid with 4 keyhole brackets 'stopped' from movement (because I don't want to have the unit fall off.)

I could only afford one of these.

It lets you arrange your own schedule, eminently modifiable, and there are people posting their settings; but Radion also provides a number of good preset programs. I haven't used the thunderstorms or the directional sun, but I have engaged the moon phase that controls the night lighting. I did use a preset program, one called something like Radiance, that just showcases the color changes, dawn to dark, and it turns out to give the fish their choice about when to be out. Not surprisingly, they kind of take cover during the bright light. I'm running it on 50% output, and the corals are about 8" from the bottom---this is a 'starting out' phase tank.

You also have to be VERY careful not to let your unit get wet, and in my canopy this meant putting a glass between the unit and the water: it has not affected the corals, to my observation.

As far as what you have to do to maintain it---power outage happens, light comes on, and it comes on at the correct phase for the time of day. It remembers. You get a new coral and want to do light-acclimation---it has a setting for that. Tell it how many days you want this to run, and it does the figuring turns itself on and off and reduces the percentage, and then at the end of the period, gets itself back to its regular schedule.

Want to change things---attach the computer, tell it, and detach the computer.

Now, we have a Marineland LED on the freshwater tank, that does very nicely for freshwater planted and cost half what the Radion did. It however mounts on stilts above the water, and having learned from one unit blown by water, we mounted the next one on a glass bridge we built to protect it. It's a nice dependable unit, but doesn't do phases---it's just on or it's off; and if you have a power failure with this one, you have to find a way to turn it back on at precisely 3pm (set a timer) so that it will get itself back on schedule. If you have a fish-only and don't mind a lower light level (the fish actually like it) this is a good affordable unit. They're both LEDs and very apt for what they do.

Those are the only two reviews I can give by experience, and it's not what you'd call 'enlightened,' pardon pun, but it is what I have found in going from MH and HO to LED with no expertise in the matter. A par meter would be nice, but as long as the corals are happy and the fish are, with the one, I'm good; and as long as the other unit just keeps running and stays dry, we're also happy.

Pay for themselves in bulbs? Well, maybe in five years on the Radion. But we're also drinking a little less electricity than the MH/HO with two ballasts sucked down. I say if it lasts five years with no MH/HO bulb purchases it will have at least paid back some considerable part of the cost. If you're just starting in the hobby, it's a big hit in expense, but if I were starting now, a good LED is the way I would go.

I do urge you to read the contrary opinions of some people dealing with corals. There are two opinions: tanks differ, coral choices differ, and so on, so consider all advice.

Ron Reefman 02/06/2016 08:43 AM

1. Reef LED versus fish-only LED---how to buy. What to consider.
Fish only, most any led will do fine, even the Current and Marineland with 0.5 watt leds
Mixed reef, any fixture with 3 watt leds, even if only driven to 1.9 watts like the Mars Aqua
SPS reef, most fixtures with 3 watt leds. Coverage is more important (below).

2. Cost advantage? or is it a wash, if you were absolutely starting from no-lights?
Some leds are more expensive than others, but IMHO, most of the 3 watt inexpensive leds are good enough to keep sps tanks (mine has been running for 3 years now and is over grown with sps and lps corals). You save on bulbs and that's a good thing. The fixture itself is a bit more efficient than t5 and even more than MH. If you were to pick MH, would you need a chiller? I did. And my home A/C ran more as well. So I got less than $1000 on leds and saved more than the cost of them in under 2 years (t5 bulbs, MH bulbs, chiller electrical use and home A/C electrical use).

3. What is par?
Photosyntheticly Active Radiation. It's the light wavelengths that plants (algae) use to do photosynthesis. And the zooxanthellae (algae) in our corals use mostly (but not exclusively) blue spectrum. Which is why most led fixtures have lots of blue leds.

4. How does width and depth of tank affect the brand you buy and the number of units you need?
Width is most important as it pertains to coverage, just like how long should your t5 bulbs be or how many MH bulbs do you need. As for depth, shallow tanks of 12" or less can use most any led (assuming it's dimmable and these days they all should be). 12" to 30" deep, most any 3 watt led can create more than enough PAR to 30". Deeper than 30" and you need to pay close attention and even do some testing on your own. But there aren't too many tanks deeper than 30", sure there are some, but is a small minority.

5. What about pre-set programs? Doing your own?
You don't NEED programs. Your fish and corals don't NEED programs. This is an option that is strictly a human desire. I like having programmable dimming so I can have my tanks feel a bit more natural. I like having sunrise and sunset so my take looks different as the day goes by. Heck, the wave maker pumps at the ends of my tank alternate in 6 hour cycles plus 2 hours of overlap where both run just to simulate tides as well But my fish and corals could care less about the lights. The tides do tend to keep the tank a bit more stirred up and cleaned out.

6. What about building your own?
If you are big into DIY, go for it. It use to be the cheaper way to go just a couple of years ago. But with the proliferation of inexpensive led fixtures from China, you can get very good quality (even programmable) led fixtures for less that the cost of a similar DIY fixture.

7. Advice for running LED in your tank: percentage of power, etc. Acclimation to light. Special care when lights come on after a long period of darkness, say, a power outage lasting more than a day.
If your system is new and you are using leds from the start, run them at half power and ramp them up over time. I recommend that most 2 channel fixtures run at 50% blue and 50% white to start. Then if you up the blue to get a cooler white look, dial the white down a bit as well, say 60% blue and 40% white. Over time you can increase the total percentage of power. I run mine with a 5 hour sunrise (all blue the first couple of hours at dawn. Then a 4 hour midday of 100% blue and 50% white (I've taken 3 years to get them that high). Then a 6 hour sunset (the last 3 hours are all blue). I figure I get 4 hours of good PAR during midday and an additional 1 or 2 hours before and after midday. So that's 6 to 8 hours of enough PAR for the zooxanthellae to do photosynthesis. BTW, most zooxanthellae will only do photosynthesis for 6 to 8 hours and then shut down any way.
I have no concerns about going back to my normal power levels after a 2 or 3 day power outage or enforced darkness to eliminate algae or bacteria blooms. The pigment protections that corals develop to block light they don't want doesn't fade away that fast. Just like a human with a good tan, it doesn't fade away in just a day or even three.

Sk8r 02/06/2016 09:43 AM

THank you, Ron Reefman! Very, very helpful! Exactly what we need!

FreedR 02/06/2016 04:40 PM

Bravo, Ron Reefman!

kmbyrnes 02/08/2016 07:54 AM

Wish this had been here before I cooked a bunch of corals. Like Ron said, big learning curve, especially for a newbie.

Martock 02/09/2016 12:47 PM

very nice to know and some new things to think about

Sk8r 02/09/2016 04:30 PM

I have also asked around and have info re coral type and par/placement. Google 'coral par numbers' and you will get some specific articles.

Sk8r 02/11/2016 06:55 PM

Another very helpful post from Jayball, to whom, thanks!

"I lost track of where the post is but this is a good refrence for PAR and a few other lighting terms.

The owner presented at MACNA in 2014:

Hope this helps,


gone fishin 02/11/2016 07:07 PM

I always found this link useful for corals

Sk8r 02/11/2016 07:26 PM

Thank you! It's been a jungle of information, and I think we're beginning to blaze a trail!

gone fishin 02/11/2016 07:39 PM

I wish I was of more help with the LED's but I am still tweaking mine after a year. Small changes and wait. I do have an excel sheet with all the changes and anything noteworthy. I find it useful to study the data.

FreedR 02/11/2016 07:46 PM

So, what are your recommendations for running LEDs over a 75 gallon tank, say? Cooking corals? From too much light? Or...something else?

gone fishin 02/11/2016 08:15 PM

Time 8:00 9:00 11:00 14:00 18:00 22:00
Channel "A" 0 30 45 60 45 0
Channel "B" 1 55 65 85 65 0
Date 1/29/16

For my Maxspect's these numbers seem to be working well. They seem to be giving me some good color. I will leave them there for a another 6-8 weeks, unless things prompt a change. If I get much over say 65% on Channel "A" I start to lose color.

sorry the numbers won't line up copied out of excel.

edward1096 02/16/2016 05:02 PM

Go with a high par led option. Save yourself some money and just buy the nicer light than slowly upgrading. You wont be dissapointed.

biecacka 02/17/2016 09:18 AM

The one thing I have noticed is we as hobbyist often need 1.5 times more the units than the manufacturer suggests. If they say 2, you probably want 3, 4 units you might consider 6 and so on and so forth. This will help eliminate dark spots and done shadowing effects others often run into. I remember seeing a test Sanjay did on a 40 gallon I think, he put 3 radions on it to ensure maximum spread like he got from a halide. He also suggested more units than manufacturers do. In my book tho, this makes them less affordable to me as I don't have 4200$ for 6 radions on my tank. But it's just my observation....


Sk8r 02/17/2016 01:31 PM

I have been doing ok with one Radion G3Pro in a wedge tank: the rock has to stack in a pyramid. It would also be possible to do a 'zoned' tank, mixed types, where the lowest or furthest over are lower-light than those atop.

Chuck L 02/18/2016 11:16 AM

New tank setup
Good day to everyone. I am getting back into the hobby after quite a few years. Lost a prize 110g coral reef because of Hurricane Andrew in 92. It's been that long ago. Anyways, I bought a 55 hexagon and now after disassembly and resealing/testing for leaks; I have almost completed a stand and hood for this project. I have a Grech external canister rated at 1000L/H, Odyssea UV Sterilizer rated for up to 180g tank, and a typhoon protein skimmer that's good for up to a 125g tank. The question I have is in selection of proper lighting for a tank that is approx. 31" deep and also fit the application. The tank is 24" in width. I would prefer a full spectrum LED but I am open for suggestions. It will ultimately have live rock, live coral and eventually inverts, clowns etc. I know I am limited on the amount of space in the tank so this will also be limited on the amount of inhabitants as well. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

Sk8r 02/18/2016 12:24 PM

I know that a Radion G3 Pro will reach about 30 wide and 36 deep, if mounted the (required for warranty) 8" above the water. You have to watch ANY led re moisture. They can die the death if a lot of moisture gets to them. Your 55 hex will have a lot of the characteristics of a wedge such as I have, and you might consider stacking your rock around an anchoring pole to get a 360 free space at the edges.

andrewbram 02/18/2016 12:42 PM

Good info about to plunge into led. I am debating between hydra 26 and 52 on 150 36x36 cube.

Chuck L 02/18/2016 07:47 PM

Thanks for the info Sk8R. When I get a little more done with the cabinet work/hood; I will post pics of it's progress. Will go take a peek at the Radion Pro. Kind of had it in mind to put a glass lid between the tank and actual wood canopy and the light would be inset on top of the hood. The inside of the hood because of it being wood, probably lined with pvc panels.

Sk8r 02/19/2016 04:50 PM

I have an oak canopy with a glass top. It does stay dry. Affects the light a bit, but thus far seems ok.

CHOX 02/22/2016 01:59 AM

I need a suggestion and I'm hoping this is a great place to ask. I'm currently running a Mars Aqua eBay LED over a 20x18x20 aquarium. I have some SPS and they're doing good, but I want controllability. I've narrowed it down to a Kessil 360w or a Radion Pro 15. They're both great lights, far as I have heard, but I haven't heard TOO much about the Radion 15. Can anyone suggest one over the other?

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